Dog Problem Or People Problem? – Dog Training – Dog Trainer – Behaviorist
PHOENIX , AZ AREA: (602) 708-4531
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I received a call the other day from a man who is in the process of getting a divorce. He called because he wanted help with his dog’s separation anxiety. As usual, I proceeded to interview him regarding his home situation, his dogs, and what behavioral problems he was observing. The more questions I asked, it became clear that this was a much more complicated problem than separation anxiety. They had two dogs and a young son. The couple separated six months ago and are still in the process of the divorce. The dogs were mostly bonded to the husband, but with the separation, the dogs went with the wife. Turned out that the wife doesn’t really like the dogs, the kid doesn’t like the dog, and the live in mother doesn’t interact with the dogs. No one is mean to the dogs, they just ignore them. With the household stress and separation, the dogs started destroying household furniture in the wife’s house. This wasn’t separation anxiety at all. These are unhappy and stressed dogs, in the midst of a family that is breaking apart. I could tell that the husband didn’t really like this diagnosis, because it meant two things. First, that he either would need to have the dogs live with him, which would be hard because he travels a lot for his job, or to give the dogs away to an uncertain future (dogs with behavioral problems are more likely to be put to death). And no lesson with the dogs would be successful in the wife’s home since no one there really is committed to the dogs. And I can only guess how the dogs are being disciplined when the wife comes home and her furniture is all torn to pieces. It’s probably not a pretty sight.
We all know that dog owners need to be consistent, fair, firm, loving and involved. Owners who are poor monitors, consistently in the dark as to their dog’s whereabouts, are setting the dogs up for behavioral problems. Owners who are lax in supervision, inattentive to what is going on with their dogs emotionally, and who impulsively over react when their dogs misbehave, make the problems even worse. If the owners don’t act as if they have a stake in ensuring their dogs have a happy life, then there isn’t much a dog trainer can do in their homes to change what is going on. And when there are family problems going on in the home, then the dogs are in a no win situation… they are going to misbehave, do behaviors that are anywhere from annoying to outright dangerous. For example, my experience has been that most aggression problems with older dogs, that didn’t have a medical cause, were building up over a long period of time before the people called a professional for help. The problems in the home, and with the dog, were not noticed, and when the dog did do something undesirable that the people did notice, the corrections applied were emotional reactions to the situation rather than well thought out.
I’ve had prospective students interview me, asking me if I will guarantee their dog will behave properly once the lessons are over. I’m honest with them, letting them know I can’t make such a guarantee because I can’t guarantee that they will follow through on the homework I give to them. The above example illustrates this perfectly. I proposed a solution to the husband, one that would require him to take the dogs back with him, and he ended the conversation right there. It wasn’t the answer he was looking for. But seriously, if he couldn’t change his wife, what makes him think I can change her? I can’t. I asked why she wasn’t the one calling me for help and not him, since the dogs were living with her and destroying her furniture. He said that was one of the main problems they had in their marriage, that she wouldn’t follow through on things. So, what chance would I have of changing how the dogs were managed in her home? Probably zero chance.
This Time It’s The People Not The Dogs
Not all dog problems can be traced back to temperament issues, or a need for new training. Much of my time, in all the lessons I give, are spent teaching owners how to be good dog handlers and owners. Handler skills make all the difference between whether a dog is going to be a joy to own, or a misery that they want to get rid of. Our shelters are flooded with MILLIONS of dogs every year. Think of all that irresponsible behavior on the part of people who cause this mess. If we had millions of kids going into orphanages or foster homes every year, at the same rate as our dogs, it would be considered a national crisis. We do have a national crisis regarding our dogs: way too many people get a dog, and then don’t do what is necessary to educate themselves, and properly train and manage their dogs.